2. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 2 for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 125
When was the last time the UFC hosted a show on the first day of the new year you ask? Well, that was all the way back in 2011, at UFC 125: Resolution. The card was slated to have massive matchups as the UFC had become the MMA promotion that everyone wanted to watch.
At first, a rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen would headline the card. It was then rumored that newly crowned UFC featherweight champion Jose Also would make his highly anticipated debut after the company had sucked up WEC into its roster. Instead, we would see the rematch between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, this time, with the lightweight title on the line.
Now I raise you a question. When was the last time that the first main event of the year also happened to deliver the fight of the year? Well, that was also only once, with Edgar and Maynard sharing the prize for their frenetic back-and-forth battle that ended in a draw.
Despite being smaller than most lightweights, Edgar had done the unthinkable by defeating B.J. Penn twice in a row to cement his place as the 155-pound champion. At this point in his career, Edgar was considered the best lightweight in the world, touting an impressive 14-1 record and holding the prestigious title.
His only loss had come to the man he was set to face. Maynard was undefeated at 10-0 (1NC) and was unsurprisingly the favorite heading into the bout. Not only did he hold a win over Edgar but he was considerably larger than his opponent despite fighting in the same weight class.
The first round seemed to prove everyone right. Maynard dropped Edgar a total of four times, the first coming in a minute and a half into the round. Edgar was completely lost as he rolled, sprawled, and tried everything to get Maynard off his back. Somehow, someway, referee Yves Lavigne continued the bout and Edgar survived.
The second saw the greatest recovery I have ever seen from an MMA fighter. After being seemingly unconscious in the first, Edgar took the match by the throat and began controlling the pace. He landed a huge takedown and began to connect on his opponent, who appeared to be gassed after all the action from the beginning.
The third, fourth, and final rounds were all fought at an exhilarating pace given what the two had gone through. Whilst the fight didn’t produce any more ‘wow’ moments like in the first, the heart and courage shown by Edgar to come back and win three out of the four remaining rounds after being steamrolled was exceptional. It showed the world exactly why he was the best lightweight in the world, and while he did not necessarily win the fight, it was clear that if a trilogy were to come, it’d be impossible to stop Edgar unless he was literally out cold.
The fact that it stood the test of time by winning ‘fight of the year’ come to the end of 2011 despite being the first main event of the year shows just how thrilling of a battle this was.